So, I’m a bit torn. I want to say my favorite Rogers film from a World’s Fair is Buck Rogers in the 25th Century: An Interplanetary Battle with the Tiger Men of Mars, which was shown at the 1933-1934 Chicago World’s Fair.
But then there’s Bob Rogers. Bob, whose career in themed entertainment started at Disneyland’s Magic Shop in 1968 (falsely alluded to in Disneyland’s 50th Anniversary film shown at the park as the same location Steve Martin worked at the same time), and his firm BRC Imagination Arts have a longstanding history of creating unique attractions and films for World’s Fairs (and Epcot Center).
Then there’s his work for NASA’s visitor centers – like the amazing Apollo/Saturn V Visitor Center that influenced me to work on an IMAX film about the rocket (still seeking funding…inquire within) and other attractions at the Kennedy Space Center. When I was living in the Houston area, I attended the opening day of the BRC-designed Space Center Houston, primarily because it was Bob’s team that had designed it. While Buck Rogers was my grandfather’s hero in high school, Bob Rogers was one of mine. So the question remains: what is my favorite Rogers film from a World’s Fair?
In all actuality, its Bob Rogers’ film from EXPO 86 in Vancouver, Rainbow War, that takes the prize. And when it comes to who to ask about it, Bob’s a great guy. He’s actually a pretty great guy overall.
I mean, as you can see in the above photo, when I was unable to attend IAAPA this year, Bob took my place and manned the InPark Magazine booth. Thanks Bob!
So when my colleague, 70mm historian Michael Coate, asked me what I knew about Rainbow War and in what formats it was released, I had to go directly to the man behind it all – Bob. Bob’s response:
Thank you for asking.
By mid-week you will have more information than you ever needed or wanted.
And since the answer ended up being much more than I ever needed or wanted, I share it here with you dear reader, so as to blow your mind as well.
Here’s the scoop on Rainbow War and Ballet Robotique.
As was true for many 70mm films shot in the 1980s, Rainbow War was originally filmed in Cinemascope. Cinemascope has a total negative area and an aspect ratio very compatible with 5-perf 70mm. We knew from the beginning that the film would be viewed in 70mm. To assure that Rainbow War would look great in 70mm, we hired Reed Smoot, www.reedsmootasc.com, as director of photography. As you probably know, Reed has become the definitive master of IMAX. At the time, he was a personal friend and just starting on what became a brilliant career filming in IMAX. His approach was to use the perrfect combination of film stock, processing, exposure and lighting that caused all parts of the picture to be in sharp focus with almost no grain. We also filmed exclusively with prime lenses (no zoom lenses) for an added touch of sharpness.
The film included a handful of visual effects created via effects animation. These were filmed in 8-perf Vistavision.
The enlargement to 70mm was supervised by Rick Gordon, www.rpgproductions.com/company-history.htm who, as you know, has become one of the world’s experts in the printing and handling of IMAX films.
The result was a film that looks every bit as good as, or BETTER, than films shot in the 65mm format.
As you know, the film was nominated for an Academy Award in the Live Action Short category, one of only three or four Expo films to ever receive an Oscar nomination. It received about 50 other international awards.
Following Expo, the film was converted to many different formats and distributed around the world. The formats included 15/70 (for convenience for use by theaters equipped with IMAX projectors), 5/70, 35mm Cinemascope, 35mm 1.85 letter box, 35mm 1.33 and even 16mm 1.33. The video conversions broke my heart but, at that time, absolutely no consumer wanted a letter box video version showing the full 70mm wide screen, so a “pan-and-scan” was created by Rick Gordon which vertically filled a standard television screen, but cut off all kinds of wonderful detail and action taking place on the deleted sides of the screen.
Rainbow War played all over the world including appearances in IMAX and Omnimax theaters. It was the only film invited to the 1988 Olympics in Korea as part of their Olympic arts festival.
In 2010 and 2011 for its 25th anniversary, the film was painstakingly, digitally restored and is now available for the first time in Blu-ray. The Blu-ray restored the sides of the picture which had not been seen in a couple of decades.
One of the original difficulties in shooting the film had been the poor job that Kodak does with color control. For this film, red had to always be red, never orange. Yellow always had to be yellow, never greenish. And, of course, Kodak never did know how to make real purple. Twenty-five years after its original production,Rick Gordon’s 2011 digital restoration finally solved those problems. The color and image quality in the Blu-ray is, in the opinion of the director and the producer (both are me), superior to anything we ever saw in 35mm or 70mm.
Ballet Robotique was shot about 2 ½ years before Rainbow War. All the same players participated: Reed Smoot as cinematographer, Rick Gordon supervising post production lab work, Marshall Harvey editing and me, producing and directing.
Ballet Robotique was shot in 35mm 1.85 flat to be used as part of a background projection appearing behind the “Bird and the Robot” show at the General Motors Pavilion in EPCOT. Our contract with GM allowed us to use the out-takes for other non-competitive purposes. So Ballet Robotique was actually made from the “trash” from another project.
As you know, Ballet Robotique was an Oscar nominee in the Live Action Short category, in addition to about 75 other awards. It’s one of the few (perhaps the only!) “industrial” films to ever receive an Oscar nomination in a creative category.
Ballet Robotique was distributed all over the world in many formats. Like Rainbow War, it was digitally restored in 2010 and 2011 and is now available in beautiful 1080 Blu-ray.
THE END OF FILM
For most of my career, the pundits were predicting that video formats would replace film. About 1998, that finally started becoming a practical reality. So as part of our 2010/11 digital restoration, it was our sad task to sort through our film vaults and triage/destroy most of our inventory of 35mm and 70mm release prints of Rainbow War and Ballet Robotique. And, of course, we destroyed ALL 16mm copies – 16mm is absolutely dead. Unfortunately, now that we have Blu-ray, nobody wants celluloid. But the good news is the image quality and color of the Blu-ray is a significant improvement over the celluloid prints. But, of course, we saved the original negatives so that when Blu-ray is replaced by 4K (or whatever), we will do our digital restoration all over again.
Learn more about Bob Rogers and his company, BRC Imagination Arts, at www.brcweb.com
ORIGINALLY POSTED 12/10/12 ON THEMEDREALITY.COM